Smell-O-Vision: the whiff of cinema that wowed an audience


Smell O Vision Cinema Scenting

Picture it – you’ve taken your seat in the cinema, ready to let your eyes and ears feast on the latest blockbuster. But, as the flick begins, you feel another sense being enraptured – your sense of smell.

The protagonist of the film is running through a summer meadow, and you can whiff the heady scent of pollen. The action moves to a dank, smoke-filled bar, and the tinge of tobacco tickles your nostrils. With just one more sense brought into play, the cinematic experience is so much more vivid.

For one film only, this scenario wasn’t just fantasy, but a fascinatingly singular film curio. Entitled Scent of Mystery, this 1960’s comedy-mystery pumped over 40 different scents (including freshly baked bread, spilt wine and unlit tobacco) at cinemagoers, using a technique known as Smell-O-Vision.

Invented by Hans Laube, these scents were triggered by the film’s soundtrack, causing smells to be pumped into the cinema at the exact moment they appeared onscreen. The tagline for the film shows how the producers believed they had created the future of cinema: "First they moved (1895)! Then they talked (1927)! Now they smell!"

The cinematic smells of the future

The idea, however, never quite caught on (although director John Waters did include scratch and sniff cards with his film Polyester, intended as a respectful nod to Scent of Mystery), which seems like a shame.

Just imagine smelling the lush forests of Avatar, or breathing in Scarlett Johansson’s perfume in Match Point. Getting lost in the story would be so much easier with an olfactory jolt.

But there’s always hope for a re-emergence of the technology.

Just like 3D flopped in the 50s and 80s only to be reinvigorated within the past five years, expect Smell-O-Vision to make its return onto the big screen in the next few years. As movie producers look to the past for inspiration, you could be sniffing at faraway lands or beautiful meals before you know it.

Indeed, some cinemas have already adopted 4D technology, with a more advanced version of Smell-O-Vision included alongside 3D and effects like actual water sprayed at audiences to mimic, for instance, a scene at the seaside.

We understand the importance of smell and how it can emotionally affect customers visiting your business. So take a look at the scents we offer for a blockbuster whiff in your workplace.


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